Gaza Flotilla Reflects Turkish Rejection of the West
The recent Turkish-sponsored terrorist flotilla to Gaza is being seen by pundits as a trend towards a larger rejection of the West by Ankara.
The Christian Science Monitor's Robert Marquand writes from Paris that “there's wariness here over Turkey's emerging persona under an Islamic-rooted party and murmurs about whether it wants to reassert an old Ottoman Empire sphere of influence.”
Marquand notes that Turkey has taken the trouble to re-establish its diplomatic ties with Iran and tighten its ties with Syria and Brazil. Turkey and Brazil were the only two nations to vote on June 9 against strengthened sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations Security Council, in the ongoing battle against its headlong rush towards nuclear capability.
Ankara's rejection of the West, he says, may be a reaction to a rebuff from Europe: Turkey's application for membership in the European Union has been stalled repeatedly for some 18 years.
During a Belgian parliamentary debate several years ago, then-MP Herman Van Rompuy was quoted as warning his colleagues, “The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigor with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey.” Van Rompuy, who eventually became the country's prime minister, currently also serves as the president of the European Union.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is another opponent of Turkey's application for membership in the EU, because the Middle Eastern nation is not geographically located in Europe. Another world leader who opposes Turkey's membership is German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Turkey's long-standing dispute with Cyprus has also created additional difficulties in various negotiations, causing further delays.
Strategically located between the East and West, Ankara meanwhile presents an excellent opportunity for non-Western investors who are looking for a way in to the worldwide economic and political playing field. Disaffected by Europe's rejection, Turkish leaders have instead begun to draw closer to their Muslim neighbors, cementing ties with Syria, Iraq and Iran.
But Europe is not taking the hint. Marquand reports that “Europeans have become more fearful of welcoming Turkey” following the clashes aboard the Mavi Marmara, when footage of demonstrators yelling “Death to Israel” on the streets of Turkey “looked un-European.”
Turks, meanwhile, blame “populist politicians in France, Germany, Austria and the Greek Cypriot government” for attacks on the member application process. According to Hugh Pope of the Istanbul-based International Crisis Group, “They use it for domestic political purposes to play on people's fears, and this has done a great deal to make Turks angry towards Europe.”